Are Women Our Own Worst Enemies?

Last month was Women’s Awareness Month, as if anyone needed to be reminded there are women in this world — actually more women than men, but who counts! Still, the media were full of tributes to women, highlights of women’s accomplishments, profiles of famous women. Stand back, I’m on a rant!

Have you ever heard of a Men’s Awareness Month? By calling attention to women by “giving us” a month — all to ourselves — borders on patronizing (a male word that does not find a female counterpart in matronizing).

Months are awarded to “minorities” of which women are not! Men are the minority — in this country as well as throughout the world. I know the reason: they keep killing off each other in wars and pub fights and other “friendly” shootings. If women didn’t continue to bring boy babies into the world, we might have run out of men maybe two or three millennia ago.

But I digress. I want to talk about words. I have long questioned the psychology of women who:

  • insist on calling themselves “girls”
  • continue to “let men tell them” what to do
  • refer to their work as “my little business”
  • use euphemisms for their work (homemaker, just a housewife, wife and mother, home executive)
  • cannot find worth in asking for equal rights in the Constitution of the United States.

The Equal Rights Amendment is off the radar for most women and girls under the age of 40. When the E.R.A. failed ratification by three states in the 1970s, it seemingly was placed in the drawer of forgotten attempts. A recent survey discovered that most women under the age of 20 don’t have a clue as to what the E.R.A. stands for; most women between 20 and 40 assume the E.R.A. is part of today’s U.S. Constitution. Women over 40 are about 50/50 in understanding the status of the Amendment, yet fail to realize that women are included in the Constitutions of almost every other major country in the world — including Iraq. Women in the United States of America do NOT have equal constitutional rights with men.

Young women don’t believe that women of their grandmother’s age were discouraged from education past sixth or eighth grade “because education might draw their energy away from child bearing or even harm them”. By mid-20th century, women teachers had to quit their jobs when they became pregnant. And many women were not hired “because a man needed the job (as breadwinner) more than she did.” A woman could not take a job in the same company as her husband “because one breadwinner in the family was enough.” And men got away with these claims.

Until research and reporting in the fulminating 1960s began to spotlight many of these incongruities and show that women are capable of working at a job and having a baby simultaneously, that children saw their pregnant mothers and it didn’t destroy them, that women were good at their jobs and needed to be paid equally for their work, that women and men could work in the same company and not upset the nation’s balance (especially when it could be pointed out that the company president had hired his wife as bookkeeper at the startup of the company, a position she retained after the company grew).

Because it happened exactly one hundred years ago, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire has been documented, reviewed, debated, and referenced over the past few weeks. A couple of months ago, you couldn’t find three people who knew what it was or its impact on the country. A couple of months from now, the same situation is more than likely to exist.

I, for one, will not accept that women are on an equal footing with men until a woman is tapped to play on one of the national baseball teams, alongside male players, and until we don’t discriminate with terms like “baseball teams and women’s baseball teams”. First the Constitution, then the New York Yankees!

Listen for 24 hours to the use of the terms women, girls, ladies, and gals and you may be surprised at what you hear. (If you’re doing your listening on television, you can reduce the time to six hours — television is the worst purveyor of the word “girl” to refer to women.) Calling grown women anything but women is to belittle them, reduce their value.

Okay, passage of the Equal Rights Amendment may not change much in the actual progression of the status of women in the United States — that’s the reality of law vs. everyday social life. However, it would stimulate discussion about the need for the Amendment and what it means for women to be regarded as equal to men — in education, sports, the arts, business, the military, politics, health, and entertainment.

Become aware — very aware — of the words used every day to refer to women and men. Words, such as “patron, master, fellow, alumni, and man” have no place in reference to women. The we’ve-always-said-it excuse has worn itself thin.

So please do not call me “girl”; I probably am old enough to be your grandmother. And never never refer to me as “bitch, gal, or baby” unless you want to land on the floor! I’ll climb down from my soapbox now and curl up with a chunk of chocolate in my little hands in my little kitchen in my little home.

© Copyright 2011



About Val Dumond

VAL DUMOND is a writer who is enamored with words and putting them together to tell stories. Trained as a journalist, she also managed an advertising agency and public relations business. She has taught writing classes for many years and now focuses on her own writing, editing for other writers, and helping writers publish their books. She owns Muddy Puddle Press, where most of her books are published. Her favorite writing theme is historical fiction: She has done what-ifs for Klondike Kate — Queen of the Yukon, and the unlucky pilot who in 1933 tried and failed to be the first to fly solo across the Pacific. She also did a what-if about the status of women at a bank where she once was overworked and underpaid. (Kate received a new love interest at the age of 70; the pilot received a second chance at his heart's desire 50 years later; and the women of the bank rebelled enough to improve their wages and place women on the Board of Directors.) See: SUGAR, SPICE, AND STONE; WHEN ROOSTERS FLY; and A LITTLE REBELLION…. But Val's grammar books are the ones that draw attention. Her latest, AMERICAN-ENGLISH—The Official Guide (written for writers), is a culmination of five other books about language she has written. This new book urges writers to develop their own writing style by creating their own Style Manual, composed of preferences among the many choices that American-English provides. In it, she uses examples of uses for the various parts of language and punctuation, sets aside a section that's full of writing tips, includes a glossary and index for easy access to language solutions.
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